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Six places in Sarawak where you can find rock art

In archaeology, rock art or cave paintings are man-made markings drawn on natural stone.

Unbeknownst to many, there are at least six interesting historical rock art sites found in Sarawak. Each holds a piece of its own unique history that has not yet been fully uncovered.

Here are six places of rock arts in the Land of Hornbills where you can find them:
1.Santubong Village
The boulders at the beach of Kampung Santubong.

According to Sarawak Museum Journal published in December 2010, a total of 11 boulders were found on the edge of a curving portion of the beach of Santubong village (Kampung Santubong).

These boulders display at least 22 pieces of rock art with most of them facing the water.

Some of them have facial features while others come with geometric designs.

Still little is known about these rock arts at Santubong village.

2.Jaong River

Located about 2km from Kampung Santubong, there is a small tributary river of the Santubong river called Sungai Jaong.

There lies the famous ‘Batu Bergambar’ or carved boulder which is at least 1,000 years old.

This particular rock art looks like a kind of headdress. In addition to that, there are about 10 rock arts spread across the Sungai Jaong area.

Besides rock art, Sungai Jaong was also the site of an ancient iron smelter.

There were crucibles used in smelting iron as well as porcelain, earthenware and glass beads.

While the exact age of the rock arts are unknown, the iron smelter is believed to be from the 10th century.

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3.Sireh Cave

Located at Serian district, this cave site is mainly associated with burials and rock arts of charcoal paintings.

Found at the cave entrance, the wall paintings depict mainly human and animal motifs.

Besides that, the cave entrance is also where earlier settlers cremated their warrior’s bodies.

During an excavation led by Ipoi Datan in 1989, they found a sequence of pre-pottery layers with stone tools at least 20,000 years old.

4.Sorang Caves

The rock arts found at Sorang Cave, Tatau are believed to be closely related to the Pre-Neolithic stone tools discovered there.

Not much has been reported about Sorang Cave, except that the paintings found there are different from Sireh and Niah caves.

5.Niah Great Cave

The most famous rock arts on this list are none other than the ones found in Niah Great Cave at its Gua Kain Hitam (also nicknamed The Painted Cave).

Discovered in 1958 by an archaeological team led by Tom Harrisson, some of the paintings were found up to 15 feet above the cave floor and extending over 200 feet in width.

Archaeologists believed the rock arts were associated with funeral burials in boat-like coffins.

Apart from the longboats/coffins, there were also paintings of humans and animals.

6.Long Semadoh

According to Sarawak Museum, there are five ancient burial sites around Long Semadoh. Each of them was found with Ming ceramics and lidded jars from the 18th-19th century.

As for rock arts, there are two stone carvings of human figurine which probably go back as far as the 17th to 18th century.

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Read also:

Six archaeological sites in Sabah that you need to know

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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